Sutter's Mill

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Sutter's Mill
Sutters Mill.jpg
Sutter's Mill in 1850
Area Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
Governing body California Department of Parks and Recreation
Official name: Gold discovery site
Designated March 7, 1955[1]
Reference no. 530

Sutter's Mill was a sawmill, owned by 19th-century pioneer John Sutter, where gold was found, setting off the California Gold Rush, a major event of the history of the United States. It was located on the bank of the South Fork American River in Coloma, California and is nowadays part of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.


On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter originally from New Jersey, found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Coloma, California, at the time, Marshall was working to build a water-powered sawmill owned by John Sutter. On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Mexico City which transferred the American Southwest to the United States. When the news got out about the gold, people from all over the world headed for California, speeding statehood and permanently transforming the territory,[2] during the next seven years, approximately 300,000 people came to California (half by land and half by sea) to seek their fortunes from either mining for gold or selling supplies like food, clothing, burros, lumber, picks, and shovels to the prospectors.

Henry Bigler[3] and Azariah Smith,[4] like other workers at the mill, were veterans of the Mormon Battalion, and wrote about their experience in journals.[5] Bigler recorded the actual date when gold was discovered, January 24, 1848, in his diary, this gold find started the California Gold Rush the next year.[6]


Modern reconstruction

The site of the mill is located on the South Fork American River. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is registered as California Historical Landmark number 530.[7] The current Sutter's Mill is a replica of the original building, it was built based on Marshall's own drawings and an early day photo of the mill.

In popular culture[edit]

The mill was the namesake and inspiration for a song by singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg,[8] the mill was also the namesake for a song by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and for Herb Sutter's blog.


The original flake of gold discovered at the mill is currently at the Smithsonian Institution.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gold discovery site". California State Parks Office of Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  2. ^ "Gold Nugget". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  3. ^ "California Gold An Authentic History of the First Find With the Names of Those Interested in the Discovery". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  4. ^ "The Gold Discovery Journal of Azariah Smith". Brigham Young University. Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  5. ^ William G. Hartley (September 1997). "On the Trail in September". Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 40–41. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  6. ^ Sutter, John (November 1857). "The Discovery of Gold in California". Hutchings' California Magazine. The Mormons did not like to leave my mill unfinished, but they got the gold fever like everybody else. After they had made their piles they left for the Great Salt Lake. So long as these people have been employed by me they hav [sic] behaved very well, and were industrious and faithful laborers, and when settling their accounts there was not one of them who was not contented and satisfied. 
  7. ^ "Sutter's Mill Site". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  8. ^ "Sutter's Mill by Dan Fogelberg". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  9. ^ "First gold found at Sutter's Mill, California, 1848". Retrieved December 15, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°48′12.5″N 120°53′32.25″W / 38.803472°N 120.8922917°W / 38.803472; -120.8922917